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Rockies won't trade Cuddyer without big return

Rockies won't trade Cuddyer without big return

Rockies won't trade Cuddyer without big return
DENVER -- The Rockies are maintaining a high price for teams interested in trading for center fielder Dexter Fowler. It has also emerged that the Rockies have the same or similar stance for any team interested in outfielder-first baseman Michael Cuddyer.

As a result, Major League Baseball sources say the Rockies, who need starting pitching but also are seeking a power bullpen arm and some type of impact player, are not making much progress on a deal. One of the sources says the Rockies will not be heartbroken if no deal can be reached, even though they would have to find another way to acquire at least one high-ground-ball, low-walk starter.

The club's position all along has been that it is not actually shopping Fowler, a switch-hitting leadoff man whose value is high because several teams are seeking center fielders, or Cuddyer, in whom teams have interest because right-handed hitters with proven power are difficult to find or acquire.

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Much of the talk during the Winter Meetings focused on Fowler, who had the best season of his career and is headed into his second year of arbitration. But in internal meetings and in talks with other clubs, the Rockies have come to the conclusion and made it clear that they highly value Cuddyer, who signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract last offseason to provide power and stability.

Last season, Cuddyer played right field but also saw considerable action at first base after Todd Helton suffered a season-ending right hip injury. Cuddyer hit .260 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs in 101 games, but oblique injuries forced him to finish the season out of action. The Rockies like his leadership and right-handed bat and need to feel protected at first base in case Helton is delayed or unable to return.

It's not that a trade is impossible. The Rockies believe their pitching staff sorely needs a dependable starter to stabilize a rotation that was wrought with inexperience and injury last season.

Talks with the Reds about Fowler didn't go far. The Reds ended up making a three-team trade with the Indians and D-backs that gave them Shin-Soo Choo. The Rockies had some interest in Reds right-hander Mike Leake and left-hander Tony Cignari -- a dominant Minor League prospect who made his Major League debut last season. But sources said the Rockies wanted more for Fowler, so the Reds looked elsewhere.

Sources also say talks with the Braves, who have several potentially strong young pitchers, haven't advanced, either. The Braves have been unwilling to meet the Rockies' high asking price. The Rockies have been quite particular about pitchers from the Braves they'd be interested in taking. Some of the young power arms are fly-ball pitchers -- good strategy in many parks, but the Rockies are trying to focus on ground-ball pitchers.

The Rockies are known to have had talks with the Mariners, who have as much pitching depth as any organization. The Mariners, having signed outfielder Jason Bay and having been involved in talks with Josh Hamilton until the center fielder picked the Angels, are seeking even more offense and could have interest in Fowler and Cuddyer.

However, the Mariners are being careful before dealing a veteran such as Jason Vargas, even though Vargas will be a free agent after the 2013 season. The Rockies also have interest in righty relief prospect Carter Capps, who was in Class A ball in 2011 but ended up pitching in 18 big league games last season (0-0, 3.96 ERA).

If the Rockies aren't able to score big in a Fowler or Cuddyer trade, they have plenty of other options in the search for pitching. After teams exhaust their high-profile chases for free agents and trades, it is expected they could have interest in some of the players who showed offensive promise last season, such as third baseman Chris Nelson or multi-position player Jordan Pacheco.

The Rockies, who have reached an agreement with veteran lefty Jeff Francis that is pending a physical, could go back to the free-agent market but aren't expected to spend big. They'll become a player for bigger names only if those free agents are left looking for jobs after the first of the year. High-ground-ball and low-walk rates will mean more to the Rockies than other attributes, such as strikeouts or experience.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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